The cartoonist whose animated parody of an Enbridge ad was removed from the website of Vancouver’s The Province on Friday says the newspaper was told to take it down by a Postmedia executive, after Enbridge threatened to pull $1 million in ads from the company.
“It was up for awhile,” Dan Murphy, editorial cartoonist for The Province, told CBC Radio’s “On the Coast” on Monday. “I got a heads up, I think it was around noon, from somebody in advertising who said that Simon Jennings, who is the head digital officer for Postmedia, had hit the ceiling over it, that he and Enbridge were saying that it had to come down.”
Murphy said he was later called into a meeting with Wayne Moriarty, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and Gordon Clark, its editorial page editor. “[Moriarty] said ‘Simon Jennings and Enbridge say it has to come down. If it doesn’t come down, Enbridge says they’re pulling a million dollars worth of advertising from Postmedia, and if it doesn’t come down, I, Wayne Moriarty, I’m going to lose my job.’”
The video was taken down shortly after. Enbridge denies that it forced the publisher’s hand. Simon Jennings, Chief Revenue and Digital Officer for Postmedia, did not return a phone call or reply to an e-mail sent by backofthebook.ca on Monday evening.
At a second meeting, Murphy was told that Enbridge’s main concern was use of its copyrighted material in the satire. “At which point I mentioned that we had done the same thing during the last federal election with NDP, the Conservatives and the Liberals,” he told the CBC. “We had taken their TV ads, some of which were running on The Province website, and we turned them into parodies . . . So why now? And I think the million dollars, right?
“I think it goes back to the initial reasons that were given to us. There was big bucks involved, and there was a demand by a Postmedia higher-up person.
“We also pointed out that there’s no way to put a lid on something like this. The fact that they thought they could — maybe not Wayne, but the fact that Postmedia back east and Enbridge thought they could, is kind of mind-boggling.”
Enbridge said in a written statement to the CBC that it “did not request The Province or Postmedia pull the video . . . Enbridge has not discontinued [its ad campaign], nor its investments as part of that campaign, nor did Enbridge threaten to discontinue those investments.” In a follow-up phone interview, an Enbridge spokesperson told the CBC that the company “had a conversation with Postmedia and they apologized for the parody . . . any further conversation would be inappropriate.”
Murphy said he hoped the incident was “a one-off. I think that maybe somebody got the word from Enbridge, and perhaps Mr. Jennings hasn’t been in newspapers long enough to say — to know to say — ‘It’s not done that way.’ I would like to think that somebody blinked.” According to his LinkedIn page, Jennings came to Postmedia in January of this year after five months at Torstar Digital, and six years at that company’s Olive Media before that.
Murphy continued: “I would like to think that that divide between advertising and editorial, it’s a fundamental. And now that we’ve got a web arm, some people I think maybe have to be tutored in the fact that that is a fundamental.”
He added that he hoped he would get to keep his job. Murphy has worked for The Province for 25 years.
See also: The Province’s big, gooey Enbridge mess